There has been a lot of talk about the Pre-Raphaelites this year. London housed the  J.W. Waterhouse – the Modern Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts this summer. It seemed like there where flyer’s everywhere. In Stockholm we had a major exhibitions called PRB, The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at the National museum. On a huge poster outside the museum the sad eyes of Dante Gabriel Rosetti gazed out over the waters of central Stockholm.

Franny Moyles book Desperate Romantics – The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites” was published in January 2009 and was also made into a tv serie, Desperate Romantics shown earlier this year. And right now, on BBC four a brand new BBC documentary is being aired, called the pre-Raphealites.

2009 is certainly a year of the PRB.

The Brotherhood was a group of friends who acted against what they percieved as the poses and idiosyncrasy of art in their time. They wanted to present a more realistic representation of the world. They believed the mannerism in art was as a legacy of the painter Raphael – Hence they looked for inspiration beyond him: they tried to capture the spirit of the pre-Raphaelite art.

Trailer from the Nationalmuseum exhibition

The brotherhood had a great impact on the Arts and Crafts movement, at the end of the nineteen century but they are also remembered for their often very detailed paintings of medieval allegories and / or religious motifs. The dead Ophelia floating on water by John Millais or the famous Jesus the Light of the World by William Hunt in St Pauls Cathedral is great examples of their work.

Painting depicting Jesus standing with a lantern in his hand, knocking on a door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”Revelation 3:20

Additionaly to paintings there where pre-raphaelite poetry. The cold autumn winds and piles of autum-colored leafs reminds me of this beautiful Autumn Song by Dante Gabriel Rosetti:

Autumn Song

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems not to suffer pain?

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
in Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

Autumn is a time of loss. Summers end in a season of sleep and death. Parting is such sweet sorrow, as Shakespeare said, and in this poem the sweet sorrow is condensed to the moment in time when a leaf falls to the ground. I find the rhythm has a remarkable surge, almost with an inverted feel to it with the drumming rhythm of the first verse: Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf.

I sometime see this poem mistakenly attributed to Dante Alighieri. I’m sure Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s father Gabriele Rossetti would have been very proud. Gabriele was a famous Dante scholar of his days and translated the medieval poet into English. Gabriele gave his son the name of Dante in honor of the great Italian poet.

However, Autumn Song is a Rosetti poem from the nineteen century. Not a medieval sonett by Alighieri.



Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-naturèd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numberèd He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




This stanza deals with the aspect of the double nature of God the Word, the Incarnation of the mid-numbered in the Holy Trinity: Christ, the Son.

To Hopkins the sound of words connected their meaning to each another and he believed their sound also had bearing for their meaning. In his early note-books (1862-1863) long lists of similar sounding words and intricate descriptions of their kinship is found: Grind, gride, gird, grit, groat, grate, greet. – Crook, crank, kranke, crick, cranky. – Flick, fillip, flip, fleck, flake. A popular belief in Gerard Hopkins time was the onomatopoetic origin of many words and their roots (e.g. Frederic Farrar’s Essay on the Origin of Language from 1860). This interest for the affinity of words might of course also be due to his studies in the classical languages which of course involves lists of roots and derived meanings from Greek and Latin.

Hence, the similarity of the word “son” and the word “sun” was, in Hopkins mind, most probably charged with deep meaning. For instance, a possible interpretation of the phrase double-natured name might be of that precise relationship, the Son/sun: Christ the light as the burning light of the world. The Son is – through the nun – newly manifested in the world again, just as the morning sun appears in the dark of the night. The Son/sun is like a new born to this world. This is how Hopkins can ask a new born to burn for us: – It is Christ, the morning sun.

The simile of the Son as the sun may be interpreted in the risen giant of stanza 33 and the cycle of the sun have connections to the master of the tides in stanza 32. The Yore-flood of Stanza 32 can also be related to the darkness and primal waters of Genesis. Christ, the Son/sun as the emerging light of the Deluge:

In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

So when Hopkins mention the double-natured name, he is referring to the Word of God. It is actually the christening of the Son/sun as in the Gospel according to Saint John. The light of the creation of the world is Christ the Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

In the Creed of the Catholic Church the naming of Christ is in close context with a description of the birth of Christ as a double nature of both True God and True Man: And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father; through Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation descended from the heavens,and was made flesh by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. (The Nicene Creed)

This is the passage of the solemn bow (In Roman Catholic liturgy the congregation bows during the Incarnation reference in the Credo) where the most holy of mysteries are described: The Son of the trinity enclosed in the womb of Mary. Hopkins described it as The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled. And he describes the immaculate conception as the Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame – a paraphrase of the maid as the Queen of Heaven: The woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Apocalypse 12:1).

Then there is the double nature of the life Christ lived: His Death is a part of His Heavenly Birth – His Divine Birth is incorporated with the Divine Passion. He was also crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; suffered, and was buried; on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven. (The Nicene Creed)

And as the Sun follows its path Christ will reappear after a time of darkness on earth. This second arrival is described in the book of Revelations. It also speaks of the double-natured name of God: His name is both related to the Birth of Christ and to both the Creation and the End of the world.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and with justice doth he judge and fight. And his eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many diadems, and he had a name written, which no man knoweth but himself. And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. (Apocalypse 19:11-13)

Hopkins prays for the second coming of Jesus (to the shire = England) will not be in the dooms-day dazzle (as in the terror of the last Judgment) nor in the dark as he came (as in the obscurity of the first coming of Jesus) but as a released shower of Grace, of Divine kindness. Christ will reappear on Judgment day and he will be royally reclaiming (as in the cycle of the sun where it reclaims light over darkness every morning) in full blown majesty, in his thunder-throne

And then Christ will be showing His double nature in yet another way: The judge is also the Savior – The Savior is also the Judge.

And shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of Whose kingdom there shall be no end. (The Nicene Creed)



During Lent and Easter I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent.


With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits―the uttermost mark
Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




In stanza 31 we had a feathery delicacy that led the way home like Noahs dove. In stanza 32 we had the yore-flood of the Deluge and here the SS Deutschland is compared with an ark, as an continuation of the nuns calling as a bell summoning lost souls. Christ as a medium, the Mediator, a vein carrying the force of life through his Passion.

The ark was carrying the creatures Lower than death and the dark:

(As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)

And perhaps here Hopkins is using the interpretation of the ark as an image for the “Unam Sanctam et Catholicam Ecclesiam”, as Pope Pius IX stated in the allocution “Singulari quadam” December 9:th 1854: For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God. Now, in truth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of peoples, regions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things? For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains “we shall see God as He is” [1 John 3:2], we shall understand perfectly by how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice are united; but, as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal mass which blunts the soul, let us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is “one God, one faith, one baptism” [Eph. 4:5]; it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry.

These souls that might have been saved as an cause of the wreckage would have been The-last-breath penitent spirits saved through the existence of Purgatory. In the first epistle of Saint Peter it is said: Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison: Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

Traditionally this part of the Bible is seen as a proof of a third place, or middle state of souls: for these spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach, after his death, were not in heaven; nor yet in the hell of the damned: because heaven is no prison: and Christ did not go to preach to the damned. (Commentary Douay-Rheims)

The image of the wreckage, may be the wrecks of disasters of Man and Nature or inner storms of wrecked souls. However these the uttermost souls are being saved from the brink of disaster. This is the uttermost mark of Christ, the Redeemer.



During Lent and Easter I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent.


I admire thee, master of the tides,
Of the Yore-flood, of the year’s fall;
The recurb and the recovery of the gulf’s sides,
The girth of it and the wharf of it and the wall;
Stanching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind;
Ground of being, and granite of it: past all
Grasp God, throned behind
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




In 1875 Hopkins had started his final year of studies to become a priest. He hadn’t wrote a single poem, until this, like a bursting flood, came out of him. It is drenched with scritual thoughts and imagery. The metaphor of Noah’s dove is a strand from the last stanza continued here as God is called the master of the long past flood, the Deluge: In the six hundredth year of the life of Noe, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month, all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the flood gates of heaven were opened: And the rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:11-12)

At the same time the Yore-flood can also be a reference to the primal waters of Creation and the division of World’s strand, sway of the sea as in stanza 1: And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so. And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day. God also said: Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done. And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:6-10)

Gardner suggests that line 3 and four should be compared with the imagery of the book of Job: Who shut up the sea with doors, when it broke forth as issuing out of the womb: When I made a cloud the garment thereof, and wrapped it in a mist as in swaddling bands? I set my bounds around it, and made it bars and doors: And I said: Hitherto thou shalt come, and shalt go no further, and here thou shalt break thy swelling waves. (Job 38:8-11)


One interesting aspect is to compare God in this stanza with Man of stanza 4. There Man is soft sift in an hourglass, here God is the master of Time and tide. Man is soft sift, God is Ground of being, and granite of it. But while God is Granite he is also so muck more motionable than Man, when man drifts to a pane God is the stanching, quenching ocean.



During lent I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent. Click here to get to the first stanza.


Well, she has thee for the pain, for the
Patience; but pity of the rest of them!
Heart, go and bleed at a bitterer vein for the
Comfortless unconfessed of them―
No not uncomforted: lovely-felicitous Providence
Finger of a tender of, O of a feathery delicacy, the breast of the
Maiden could obey so, be a bell to, ring of it, and
Startle the poor sheep back! is the shipwrack then a harvest, does tempest carry the grain for thee?

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




Now Hopkins have told the story and in the epilogue of the five last stanzas he is tying up the loose ends and trying to interpret the reasons for what has happened. For Christiabs in terms with God, pain and death is worth heavenly much, but for the unbelievers or those with unconfessed mortal sins, death means the beginning of eternal agony in Hell.

If you choose to separate yourself from the father, you will be separated from him. Pity those souls who have!

The word “Well” indicates a less formal approach toward his readers. I picture father Hopkins leaning forward, and in a tranquil low voice say: “Well, here’s how it is”.

And then he pities all those unconfessed souls, the ones outside of Christs compassion… And there he stops himself. No man is out of Christ’s compassion. There is nothing Christ would love more than having these souls convert their ways and come to him.

Then father Hopkins paints the image of a bird, of feathery delicacy, named Providence: Perhaps, he asks, this was the final way God could reach some of those – until then – lost souls? The path that leads the sheep back to the herd. The dove that lead Noah to land? The nun as a summoning bell.

Let Providence gather the lost so that they convert their ways and give their souls to Christ. Let the tempest reap their souls.

Perhaps the storm was the only grain that could help them grow closer to God?



During lent I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent. Click here to get to the first stanza.


Jesu, heart’s light,
Jesu, maid’s son,
What was the feast followed the night
Thou hadst glory of this nun? ―
Feast of the one woman without stain.
For so conceivèd, so to conceive thee is done;
But here was heart-throe, birth of a brain,
Word, that heard and kept thee and uttered thee outright.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




In the Spiritual Exercises each exercise ends with a colloquy: The Colloquy is made, properly speaking, as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant to his master; now asking some grace, now blaming oneself for some misdeed, now communicating one’s affairs, and asking advice in them. (St. Ignatius of Loyola 1522-24)

The wreck of Deutschland have many similarities with the form of Loyolas Spiritual Exercises. Stanza 30 can be seen as such an end. It has the similar personal approach as the above directions for a conversation with Christ.

In this private conversation Father Hopkins speaks to Christ about the feast that was to come the next day: December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The immaculate conception was first pronounced on the constitution Ineffabilis Deus in 1854: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. (Pius IX 1854)

The feast is celebrated since early medieval times and is now celebrated by the whole Catholic Church on the eight of December. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the reason for this feast like this. Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son “who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties.” Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she “shows the way” (hodigitria), and is herself “the Sign” of the way (ccc 2674)

McChesney writes about the last lines of this stanza: In a mystical sense this nun was another Mary who by the quality of her death “uttered” (showed forth, gave birth to) Christ in the world.



During lent I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent. Click here to get to the first stanza.


Ah! there was a heart right!
There was single eye!
Read the unshapeable shock night
And knew the who and the why;
Wording it how but by him that present and past,
Heaven and earth are word of, worded by? ―
The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast
Tarpeian-fast, but a blown beacon of light.

The Wreck of the Deutschland
By Gerard Manley Hopkins




The stumbling words from the last stanza is now transformed in to the unshapeable picture. In Hopkins poetry there is no major difference between form and substance and both the horror and the complexity of the scene is, as, impossible to fully express.

And the poem is coming to an end, Father Hopkins is giving us his conclusion: God was there. The sacred heart, the single all-seeing eye. The ever-present eye of Providence. Or the heart and the eye refers to that child of God, the calling nun, who was there and saw it all. Who interpreted the disaster Christocentric. It is the “To find God in all things and all things in God” of Ignatian Spirituality. This world as Word of God. (Hopkins dwells on different meaning of the word word: Wording it in line 5 as interpreting it, word of in line 6 as expression of, worded by as given meaning by).

In his commentaries to the Spiritual Exercises father Hopkins writes about the same subject. God’s utterance of himself in himself is God the Word, outside himself is this world. This world then is word, expression, news, of God. Therefore it’s end, its purpose, its purport, its meaning, is God, and its life or work to name and praise him. The greatest praise that man can give is to re-enact the Incarnation and Redemption. This is done by the great sacrifice. And as father Hopkins continued: To contribute then to that sacrifice is the end for which man was made.

This is what the sister did through her calling. She knew the how and the why, and stood firm in the center of a storm. Father Robert R. Boyle S.J. described this as. She saw Christ in the storm and ‘worded it’ by Him, as Simon Peter had seen the Godhead in the man Jesus before him, and had worded his vision for the ages. She was like Peter, too, in being a rock amid the storm, like the Tarpeian rock at Rome.

The Tarpeian Rock was the infamous execution place outside of Rome not far from where the Vatican now lies. Just as the dreadful place of the imprisonment of Peter and Paul was transformed into the Capital of the Church, the Scene of the wreck was transformed to a scene of absolute divinity.



During lent I will publish the stanzas from the Wreck of the Deutschland, one by one. Sometimes with a small commentary or with some aspect about the poem. Hopefully someone will be able to use this as a form of prayer during Lent. Click here to get to the first stanza.

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